Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

Records From Canada // Crimes

June 20th, 2015 | Features | 0 Comments

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One of the weird things about New York is that because it’s so insanely urban (especially Manhattan), a lot of people there develop a crazy craving for the outdoors. I definitely felt it and, as a result, I spent a lot of time in my apartment dreaming of moving to British Columbia. Even as I type this, the wallpaper on my phone and my laptop are pictures my friend Breanna took while travelling across B.C. So now at least when I go to check my email I can see that magical place…

My craving for B.C. led me back to the province’s awesome music scene (mostly bands from Vancouver and sometimes Victoria). Especially the ragged stuff. Bands like Black Mountain. Japandroids. Ladyhawk. And then from there I started trying to find out about other cool bands from Vancouver that I might’ve missed. Eventually my searches turned up The Mohawk Lodge.

I think the first thing I heard was their most recent album, 2012’s Damaged Goods. I wasn’t really into it, but I decided to check out some tracks from one other album, 2007’s Wildfires, just in case their older stuff was better. Well, it was and is. But even better than Wildfires is their 2010 album Crimes. To be fair, frontman Ryder Havdale ditched Vancouver for Toronto in 2008 and recorded Crimes there, but it still feels more like a Vancouver album than a Toronto one.

What makes Crimes and Wildfires so compelling is the same ragged heart-on-sleeve, B.C. dive bar beauty that you can hear in the music of bands like Ladyhawk and Japandroids. They sing about love and stuff, but it’s stoner love, hitch-hiker love, bearded, fleeting, irresponsible, immature, dirty and glorious. Half of what they miss is the girl, but the other half is the time, the place, the moment. Like in “Younger Us” when Japandroids sing “Give me the night you were already in bed/Said “fuck it”, got up to drink with me instead.” It’s that very B.C. feeling.

As great as both albums are, Crimes is a bit more consistent. The production on songs like “Let Go” – with its playful, layered vocals and the hand claps that come in halfway through – is also a cut above the band’s previous work.  Sometimes it’s a bit too clean actually, and the best songs on Wildfires actually strike a better balance between gritty and produced, but most of the songs on Crimes are still great.

I wanted to go to Vancouver again this summer. I was planning to take a road trip from Portland, OR to Dawson City in the Yukon Territories, but I’m not even sure if I’ll have a week to go back to Toronto and visit my family this summer, let alone take what would need to be at least a month-long road trip. Stupid law school-intern-work life. Yeah, I know, it’s the responsible path, but sometimes I just want to say screw it and live in that B.C. feeling forever. Until that day comes though, I guess I’ll just dream of the West Coast’s mountains and forests while listening to The Mohawk Lodge.

Records From Canada // Hello Hum

May 12th, 2015 | Features | 0 Comments

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When I was 18, I lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia for a year while attending the University of King’s College.

Back when I was deciding where to go for school, I knew I wasn’t going to leave Toronto for a city with a lame music scene. But Halifax’s scene was legit. I’d be alright there. Not only did the city have a history of producing greats like Eric’s Trip and Sloan, but it was still impressing the rest of Canada with Joel Plaskett, Dog Day, and especially Wintersleep. The latter had just released 2007’s Welcome To The Night Sky, their third release but first to really break them out. Some of the album’s songs, like “Archeologist” and “Weighty Ghosts”, have since become minor Canada indie classics.

Wintersleep followed …Night Sky with 2010’s New Inheritors. Apparently it was a critical and commercial success, but I don’t remember hearing about it at the time, and still haven’t really gotten into it. In 2012 they released Hello Hum. I was still in Toronto when it came out but I can’t remember hearing about its release then either. One day this year though, after listening to …Night Sky again, I realized that the band no doubt had other albums that I hadn’t heard, so I searched them up on Spotify and saw the newer two (though their first two weren’t there).

I was drawn to Hello Hum from the get go because of its glacial cover. And then when I pressed play on opener “Hum”, rising out of the silence I heard the eerie, phasing sound of a synth, followed by cavernous, ramshackle drums and cold maritime guitars. Musically, it sounded like the album’s cover: glacial. You could find elements of “Weight Ghost”‘s charming campfire sing-along vibe in “Unzipper”, “Nothing Is Anything (Without You)”, and the chorus of “Resuscitate”. “Archeologist”‘s pin-point ambient attack had lived on in “Rapture”‘s stuttering beat. And then there were the beautiful comes downs: the lonely last call of “Saving Song”; the floating “Someone Somewhere”. “In Came The Flood” is also a great song.

“Hello Hum” may not feel as classic and emblematic of its time and place as “Welcome To The Night Sky”, but overall it’s probably the better album. It’s more interesting and in some way more consistent. But whatever, they’re both great. Listening to it, I remember when I was 18 and my mom and I went to visit Halifax to check the city out before I decided to move there. I remember loving its cold, pleasant seaside feel. The celtic bars with wooden floors. The sloping roads around its antiquated harbour, seemingly unchanged since the time of the great Halifax Explosion. And the city’s odd, sometimes desolate small-town feel, despite being the biggest population hub in the maritime.

After a couple months, I couldn’t stand that desolate feeling anymore and longed to return to the bustle of Toronto. But in the beginning, the cold quiet of the city felt like a promise to me of new beginning, as I left my home to begin the next phase of my life. For that, I’ll always have a soft-spot for Halifax and its bands.

Re-Evalutated // Teenager

March 20th, 2015 | Features | 0 Comments

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In 2012, I boarded an Aerosvit flight to Tel Aviv with a stopover in Kiev. I had just said goodbye to my girlfriend of two years to go join the Israeli army, and we’d both agreed that last hug in the airport would mark the end of the relationship. I spent the next five hours listening to The Thrills‘ heartbreaking final album Teenager, crying my eyes out in-between two very confused Ukrainians.

The Thrills came out of the garage-rock revival of the early aughts. Of course, they were lumped in with all the other ‘The’ bands, even though they weren’t really much like any of them. But if The Strokes were the new Velvets and The White Stripes were the minimalist punk version of Led Zeppelin, The Thrills were the Irish Beach Boys of the scene. Their first album, 2003’s So Much For The City, was an ode to fun in the sun and the heartbreaking beauty of youth. Critics responded well to it and the album hit #1 in Ireland. Their second album, 2004’s  Let’s Bottle Bohemia, received a less enthusiastic critical reception but again made #1 in Ireland and even outdid its predecessor’s performance on the American Heatseakers and Billboard charts.

Then in 2007 the band released Teenager. Critics loved it the most of all three of the band’s albums, but commercially it performed worst by a considerable margin. I’m still not sure why. Teenager wasn’t a ‘difficult’ album. The songwriting, if anything, was stronger, poppier and more consistent than anything in the band’s oeuvre. Was it a marketing thing? Were people just too eager to find the newest, hottest bands to pay attention to a bunch of Irish dudes who released a song or two they liked in 2003? Whatever the case, Teenager‘s under-appreciation is tragic. It’s one of the most beautiful albums of the last decade and hands down the band’s best.

Ironically, considering the title, Teenager is about growing up and settling down. It’s about cherishing the memory of those fun times in the sun as they fade away in life’s rear view mirror. Maybe people just weren’t into that, the album’s of undercurrent of sadness, when they pressed play in 2007, but it was precisely what made Teenager so special, and I recognized it immediately. I guess Pet Sounds had the same problem with listeners in its time. But people appreciate Pet Sounds now; anyone who knows music knows that’s Brian Wilson‘s masterpiece. But nobody talks about Teenager, and that’s  shame. “This year could be our year,” sang frontman Conor Deasy on “This Year”, one of the album’s best tracks. Until Teenager gets the respect it deserves, every year could be The Thrills‘ year. And one of these years it will be.

Records From Canada // Firecracker/Cloudglow

February 23rd, 2015 | Features | 0 Comments

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Since moving to New York, I’ve become almost aggressively Canadian. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but America’s gross racial inequality, debates about stupid stuff like gay marriage, abortion or contraceptives, and everyone’s constantly complaining about the cold when there’s barely any snow on the ground will do that to a person. So yeah, as much as I love New York, I do miss Canada.

As is the case whenever you move from one place to another, you take some of your home with you and hope you can show the best of it to the new people you meet. You hope it’ll help you educate them of the world and culture you come from, that they’ll appreciate it, and maybe this will help them understand you a better. For this reason, I’m starting a new feature called Records From Canada targeted at those in my new place of residence, the US of A. The plan is to expose these Americans a bit more to the wonderful music of the great white North, that often gets overlooked this side of the border.

My first post is about an album I’ve loved for a long time, ever since it was sent to me in an email from the band itself: Cannon Bros‘ 2011 album Firecracker/Cloudglow.

Cannon Bros is a boy & girl guitar/drums duo from Winnipeg, Manitoba that plays very charming, disarmingly honest indie pop-rock. While others might not pick up on it, to me they sound very Canadian, so much so that when I served in the IDF I used to listen to them (and Snailhouse) when I felt nostalgic for home.

But Canadian-ness aside, Firecracker/Cloudglow is just a great and insanely catchy album from start to finish, that’s also fairly substantial on an emotional level. For example, when you listen to tracks like “Left In A Hurry” or “Let It Go”, you can tell that these are songs that come from a real place, and very likely real-life events.

I’ve contact them since I first heard the album and last I heard they’re working on a follow up. I’ve been looking forward to it for a while.

Top Albums Of 2014: Honourable Mentions

December 27th, 2014 | Features | 0 Comments

Though I only wanted to pick a ‘top’ ten, there were a lot of cool albums released this year. Here are a couple more I enjoyed…

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Operators – EP1

At first I thought this was a little too clean and poppy for my liking, but after listening to it for a while I came around to it more. Now I think it’s one of the best things Dan Boekner‘s ever done (though, to be fair, everything he’s ever done is incredible). It sort of picks up where Handsome Furs and Divine Fits left off, except without Britt Daniel and no soviet vibe (which is kind of unfortunate; I really liked that vibe, but whatevs). Excited to hear what these guys do on a full-length.

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Mitski – Bury Me At Makeout Creek

Really cool 90s indie vibe from this young NYC band.

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Gerard Way – Hesitant Alien

I know this is super un-indie but former My Chemical Romance singer Gerard Way‘s solo album is a actually very solid return to form. I was a fan of MCR until Danger Days let me down (hey, The Black Parade‘s actually a pretty deece album), so it was nice to give Hesitant Alien a cursory listen to find that Way still knows how to write a great pop-rock song. Also, Doug McKean‘s production gives everything a little much-needed room to breath after years of Way’s MCR songs being radio-formatted to death by the likes of Green Day producer Rob Cavallo.

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LVL UP – Hoodwink’d

Another solid 90s-loving NYC band who put out a great album this year on their own excellent label, Double Double Whammy (also home to Mitski and Frankie Cosmos).

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Posse – Soft Opening

Really enjoyable, chill album from this Seattle duo, with plenty of reference points from 80s and 90s indie homebodies like Galaxie 500 and Yo La Tengo.

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Vashti Bunyan – Heartleap

Abandoning the overwhelming quaintness of Lookaftering, Vashti Bunyan‘s latest (and hopefully not last) album is a quiet, naturalistic wonder, that feels amazingly relevant for an artist whose catalogue dates back to the mid 60s.

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The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave

If this had been the band’s first or second album, it would’ve been in my top ten of the year. The only issue I have with it is that it isn’t really anything new from a band that has otherwise been making subtle progressions from album to album. Instead, it’s more the In Rainbows-esque consolidation of all the experiments the band’s been making with each album until now, streamlining the harsh shoegazer guitars of Forget The Night Ahead and the daggery synths of No One Can Ever Know. The songwriting is as sharp as ever, with no shortage of the infectiously gloomy melodies and suggestive lyrics one would expect of the Scottish crew.

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Wish – S/T

Just a really cool album from Toronto record collector types.

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Kevin Drew – Darlings

The beloved BSS frontman’s second album isn’t the intimate epic his first album was, but rather, an epically intimate collection of small, beautiful synthy songs.